She could already picture his face. They’d played this game before.
He’d try and fail to mask his initial shock before something else chased it away; disappointment perhaps, but more likely anger. She’d have to wait on his weapon of choice. If it was fire, she’d bow her trembling head and let his rage burn itself out, her whispered sorry far too inadequate a cover. If it was ice, she’d wrap up in burning shame against the days of cold rejection. Either way she knew the drill. Apologise and accept the consequences.
She was caught, bound so tight that she couldn’t remember the last time she spread her wings and soared. So she stayed, cared for him while the cancer hollowed him out, fed and bathed him when his strength was too far gone to waste it on cursing her. Some nights she watched him drowse in bed, unfamiliarly gaunt and weak but somehow still on top, pressing down on her.
Not long now, the hospice at home nurse said.
There was one more thing to do. She left him with the TV playing for company. Soon she sat facing a mirror with a cape around her shoulders and a feverish look in her eyes. Or perhaps the rosiness of her cheeks was excitement. She couldn’t remember.
“You’re certain about this?”
She nodded. “It’s for a cause very close to my heart.”
He’d always loved her hair, how it fell in a dark glossy curtain that almost reached her waist, and never allowed her to cut it. She emerged blinking and unfamiliarly youthful, liberated from the weight of her history as the hairdresser snipped and shaped her new pixie cut.
“These bundles will make a beautiful wig for a cancer patient,” the hairdresser said. “And you still have wonderful hair.”
She smiled her thanks and floated out of the door with her bag full of hope. What would he say when he saw her? It didn’t matter anymore.
With her locks gone, the door cracked open. Not long now.
Commended (just missed the longlist) in the Reflex Press Winter 2019 Flash Fiction Contest and first published by them 15 Feb 2020